Queen Elizabeth I identified as author of Tacitus translation
The analysis of unique handwriting in an anonymous 16th century manuscript translation of Tacitus’s Annals has led an academic to determine the author to be Queen Elizabeth I.
The research, published in the journal Review of English Studies, analysed the translation’s paper stock, style, and crucially the handwriting preserved in the manuscript to positively identify Elizabeth I as the translation’s author.
The translation of Roman historian Tacitus’s work found its way to Lambeth Palace Library in London in the 17th century.
John-Mark Philo, an honorary fellow in English studies at the University of East Anglia, found persuasive similarities between unique handwriting styles in the Lambeth manuscript and numerous examples of the queen’s distinctive handwriting in her other translations, including the extreme horizontal ‘m’ and the top stroke of her ‘e’.
“The queen’s handwriting was, to put it mildly, idiosyncratic, and the same distinctive features which characterise her late hand are also to be found in the Lambeth manuscript,” Philo said.
Researchers here identified the paper used for the Tacitus translation, which suggests a court context.
The translation was copied on paper featuring watermarks with a rampant lion and the initials ‘G.B.’, with a crossbow countermark, which was especially popular with the Elizabethan secretariat in the 1590s.
Notably Elizabeth I used paper with the same watermarks both in her own translation of Boethius, and in personal correspondence.
The tone and style of the translation also matches earlier known works of Elizabeth I.
The Lambeth manuscript retains the density of Tacitus’s prose and brevity, and strictly follows the contours of the Latin syntax at the risk of obscuring the sense in English.
This style is matched by other translations by Elizabeth, which are compared with the Tacitus translation accordingly, said the study.
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